As one of its final acts last term, the U.S. Supreme Court issued Kansas v. Marsh, a case involving the constitutionality of a state death-penalty statute. The 5-4 decision exposed the deep divide that exists among the nation’s intellectual elite regarding one of society’s most troubling issues — namely, whether the possessive form of a singular noun ending with the letter “s” requires an additional “s” after the apostrophe.

The issue reached a crescendo in Marsh primarily because of two circumstances. First, the statute in question originated from a state with a name ending in “s.” Second, the majority opinion was written by a justice whose last name ends in “s.” Given the confluence of these factors, it was inevitable that the justices’ philosophical differences on matters of American usage would be thrust into the spotlight.

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